MARTIN, Tenn. – The University of Tennessee at Martin head volleyball coach Darrin McClure has released the 2012 fall schedule, highlighted once again by the second-annual First State Skyhawk Invitational on Aug. 31 through Sept. 1.
The Skyhawks – coming off their first Ohio Valley Conference championship match appearance since 2002 – will be a part of the league’s West division in the fall. With the addition of Belmont, the OVC now boasts 12 teams for the first time in the history of the conference, necessitating the divisional alignment. UT Martin will take on each of its West opponents (SIU Edwardsville, Eastern Illinois, Southeast Missouri, Murray State, Austin Peay) in a home-and-home series, while facing East division opponents (Tennessee Tech, Tennessee State, Eastern Kentucky, Morehead State, Jacksonville State, Belmont) just one time in 2012.
“The divisions in our conference should create even more of a rivalry with schools geographically close to us,” said Darrin McClure, who will enter his fifth season at the helm of the Skyhawk volleyball program this season. “It’s exciting.”
UT Martin’s season will open with three matches at the Arkansas Invitational on Aug. 24-25. The Skyhawks will face host Southeastern Conference member Arkansas, Big 12 member Kansas and Southland Conference opponent Northwestern State in the tournament.
The Skyhawks then open the home portion of their schedule with the aforementioned First State Skyhawk Invitational. UT Martin welcomes Troy out of the Sun Belt Conference, Wright State from the Horizon League and DePaul out of the Big East Conference. The matchups against Wright State and DePaul will be the first time the Skyhawks have played those respective schools in program history.
“We are really fortunate to host another tournament this year,” McClure said. “It helps our team learn to play at home and allows us to not miss class.”
A trip to the Saluki Invitational then follows, as UT Martin will be pitted against Arkansas-Little Rock, host Southern Illinois and Nicholls State on Sept. 7-8. One week later, the Skyhawks travel to Montgomery, Ala. to take part in the Alabama State Invitational – facing Jackson State (29-10 and an NCAA Tournament appearance last season), North Texas and host Alabama State.
“We play good teams in our preseason tournaments,” McClure said. “We want to win them all but more than that we expect these matches to show us what we will need to work on prior to conference play. Last year’s success I believe had a lot to do with scheduling. This year’s schedule is similar in that it will help our youth get valuable reps against quality opponents.”
UT Martin then returns to Skyhawk Fieldhouse for a non-conference outing against Alabama A&M on Tuesday, Sept. 18 before hitting the road for five straight matches. On that lengthy road trip, UT Martin opens OVC play at SIU Edwardsville (Sept. 21) and Eastern Illinois (Sept. 22). The Skyhawks close out the month of September with OVC matches against Southeast Missouri and Tennessee Tech, followed by a matchup at Missouri Valley Conference member Evansville on Oct. 2.
After a 17-day layoff inbetween home matches, UT Martin hosts four OVC opponents (Murray State, Austin Peay, Tennessee State and Belmont) in the span of eight days. The Skyhawks then travel to Eastern Kentucky (Oct. 19) and Morehead State (Oct. 20) before a brief two-match homestand against Eastern Illinois and SIU Edwardsville to round out October.
Road matches at Austin Peay and Murray State take place on Nov. 2 and Nov. 3, respectively. UT Martin will then conclude the regular season with home outings against Southeast Missouri (Nov. 6) and Jacksonville State (Nov. 10).
The OVC regular season champion then earns the right to host the league’s postseason tournament, which will take place on Nov. 15-17.